Joshua L. Peugh, founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, knows dance can bring cultures together and spark conversations.
"Having lived in another country where all I had was the language of dance to bridge the gap reaffirmed for me the idea that movement is the most basic form of communication," Peugh said.
The dance company's Spring Series at WaterTower Theatre in Addison from March 22-24 aims to do just that with two world premieres exploring humanity and classical Indian dance.
Peugh, a New Mexico native and one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch," moved to South Korea after graduating from Southern Methodist University. He danced with Universal Ballet Company for two and half years, but he craved another artistic challenge.
"At the ballet company, I wasn't dancing the work I wanted to dance, and I wasn't seeing the kind of work I wanted to see so I started making it," Peugh said.
Peugh started rehearsing with friends in the evenings after a full day of work. Then they would have dinner and as they sipped coffee, they would talk for hours before realizing it was 4 a.m. One performance at a festival led to other performance opportunities.
After a few months of late-night talks, too few hours of sleep and numerous performances, Peugh and his friends decided they needed a name for the company."So, we literally had dark circles," Peugh said. "It started out as a joke – Dark Circles Contemporary Dance because we're so tired – but after six months, we decided it was a good name. It stuck."
In 2011, Peugh's work for SMU's centennial celebration attracted the attention of the late Bruce Wood. Wood established a position for Peugh with his company, Bruce Wood Dance Project.
While Peugh returned to Dallas, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance continued to establish itself in South Korea. Peugh started an American company of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in Dallas, widening the company's reach.
The Korean company tours throughout Asia while the American company premieres works in Dallas and tours throughout the United States, Canada and Germany.
When the Dallas company collaborated with the Korea National Contemporary Dance Company in 2017, Peugh introduced the American company to their Korean counterparts, taking them to the Korean company's studio.
"We did a company class together, they got to meet the other dancers and listen to the other half of the founding team talking about our principles," Peugh said.
Those principles stem from Peugh's love of theater and engaging storytelling.
"My goal is always to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. I think we have to be entertainers. That's our job," Peugh said. "I'm always training the company to let things happen instead of making things happen. All the training is specifically built to make people present so everything is coming from the inside out, because I believe if the story we're telling is authentic and honest, it's a lot easier for the audience to insert themselves into the fantasy they are seeing onstage."
Peugh wants audiences immersed in the dance, preferring intimate venues with no barriers between the audience and the dancers.
"It's not something that sits away from you. It's actually something you're interacting with, so the shared experience is happening between the audience and the performers," Peugh said. "My favorite compliment after the performance is always people saying, 'Oh, I wanted to get up and do that too,' or 'I was dancing in my seat,' or people sending me an email a week later saying they have questions because there's some peculiarity of our work picking at them."
Audiences will experience two contrasting works as a part of the Spring Series. "Nervosa" is a world premiere creation by award-winning choreographer, Sidra Bell.
"I try to pick people that I'm jealous of to bring in. When I commission someone, I'm going to bring in someone that I wish I had thought of what they did, people who I think can challenge me and push me in a different direction," Peugh said. Bell's sleek, architectural work emphasizes the exploration of movement to comprehend what is happening in the world.
Peugh is creating the second piece on the program, "Dialogue", combining contemporary dance with Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance form. Tejas Dance, a classical Indian dance duo, is collaborating on the work. For Peugh, it's an experiment to better understand another culture's dance form, testing the language of dance's vocabulary and surprising its creators.
"What happens if we smash it together? What happens if we break some of the rules of the classical form, but also break some of the rules of contemporary dance by adding in facial expressions or detailed eye and hand gestures," Peugh said. "I never know what's going to come out when I'm working."